On a particularly hot and muggy day last week, the kids and I stayed indoors and played a little billiards on the Wii. I tried to concentrate on my next shot as Somerset jumped around the living room and goaded me like a virtual Fast Eddie Felson.
We kept the game light and friendly, though, and I took my lumps from the 8-year-old hustler, and at some point the talk turned to money. Like most of my kids’ conversations, I’m not quite sure how this topic came up, whether it was a discussion carried over from the day before or due to the wager I had just offered my daughter. Who really knows what wheels are turning inside our children’s heads?
They asked each other what they would do with $1,000, and whether they’d rather have “this” or “that” instead of a thousand dollars. One thousand dollars appears to be the benchmark of financial success for my kids.
But not necessarily happiness. One of those little pool-hall philosophers spoke up to say that money can’t buy happiness; he said it’s what “they” say. Somerset, banking the 8 ball easily off the far bumper and into a pocket, was insistent that things could be bought that would make us happy. When I asked, “Like what?” her eyes grew big and she said, “stuff!”
Stuff is usually what it all comes down to for kids because they think that once they get all the stuff they see in television ads, they’ll be happy. It will be years before they realize that the acquisition of stuff only leads to more stuff until your house is full of stuff that doesn’t really have the ability to make you happy.
The people around you, the situations and something as simple as an afternoon playing a game with your kids are where happiness is found.
Their game of “would you rather have” eventually devolved into each developing the rationale that they’d rather have the thousand dollars because then they could buy a wizard who could conjure up whatever it is they want. I blame J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter series for this. My kids all have either read the books or seen the movies, or both, and their takeaway from it all is that wizards can get you stuff. And apparently that the cost of a competent wizard is around $1,000.
Rowling has made a fortune off of her enterprise, but she worked for it. She developed an imagination and the discipline it takes to write seven novels.
I tell my kids that realizing their talents and developing those talents to their potential are where happiness can be found. I tell them to find what it is that makes them happy in life and reach for it. Even if what it is that makes them happy is embarrassing their loving father at a video game in his own house, on his own television; just one item in a long list of his stuff.